The Follow Through

For the first several months of eighth grade, a large amount of your time was devoted to planning for secondary school – getting to and from tutoring sessions, working on getting good grades, taking practice tests, visiting schools, completing applications and writing samples, taking actual tests, interviewing. Finally, you’ve crossed the application finish line and submitted. There’s nothing left to do but wait for the results. Perhaps you’re now thinking to yourself that you deserve a break, that you can let up on the gas a little. High schools won’t see new grades or new teacher recommendations, right? Well, not only is that possibly not right but as a middle schooler you are too young to already have “senioritis.” Now is the time to do what many athletes will find familiar: follow through.

Coaches tell us that following through means completing the movement of the action and that leads to a more successful execution. It’s the thing a baseball player does after making contact or a volleyball player does after that killer serve: continuing the motion even after the ball has left your hands. By following through, you will live your life in a way that matches the impression you made in your application, all the way through the last day of middle school. Maintaining your focus and best performance all the way through the school year will not only position you for follow-ups from high schools but also further establish good academic stamina, which will be useful once you’re in high school.

And remember, it’s possible that for your high school career has already begun. Take a look at your courses. Some of them may be for high school credit. Your performance in some classes this year could be part of your high school record and may eventually affect your high school transcript and GPA. Make sure you are setting yourself up to succeed by doing your best all the way through June. Talk to your teachers and even the friends you respect about maintaining strong grades and improving ones you think could be stronger.

Not sure where to begin? Sit down and take some time to review the application process. You probably learned a lot about yourself after all that essay writing and interviewing. Specifically, think about the feedback you received from teachers, advisors, and parents. Recall what you learned about yourself in preparing for your interviews and writing your responses to the application questions. What are your strengths? What skills and qualities can you work on to improve? How do you impact the groups, teams, and communities to which you belong? What type of impact would you like to have? Think about all you have learned about yourself as a student and a person. What are you proud of? What would you like to continue being known for? Take advantage of this introspective work you did during the application process to better yourself as a student, friend, family member, and citizen.

After reflecting on these points, we recommend setting goals. Make a short list of two or three things you can commit to working on for the rest of the year. Perhaps you want to plan your afternoons and evenings better so you finish your homework earlier. Maybe you want to establish an earlier bedtime so you can wake up on time in the morning and avoid feeling rushed. Another goal might be to participate in class at least once every day by answering a teacher’s question or contributing to class discussion. Set small, specific, achievable goals so that you can celebrate your successes along the way and establish good habits for high school.

Finally, it can be helpful to note that if you have been waitlisted from private school, you will want to put yourself in the strongest position possible. Taking the time to invest in yourself and your academic follow-through will help a teacher send a stronger follow-up recommendation. With hard work on academics, you’ll be happy to update those schools with third quarter or final year grades.

Following through will help you continue the narrative you’ve conveyed in your applications and also establish habits you’ll find useful for a lifetime.